Continued criminal activity in South Africa’s agricultural areas has seen leading farmer organisations and two political parties again calling for action and intervention of some type by government.
Twenty-seven “brutal and senseless attacks” in June “deeply affected” the national agricultural community, Tommie Esterhuyse, who chairs Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety, said.
He was joined by Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald who called the attacks “an extreme wave” which should see the country’s farmers “ready themselves to fight fire with fire, within the constraints of the law”.
Statistics released by the Pretoria headquartered Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) show 59 farm attacks and 12 murders in South Africa since 1 April.
This prompted Democratic Alliance (DA) rural safety work stream chair Dianne Kohler Barnard to point out this has brought no response from government. “There has been no outcry from government. No possible solutions tabled, no campaigns launched to ensure the safety of those living in rural areas or engagement with them,” she said, asking President Cyril Ramaphosa what is going to be done to address the “long ignored and again increasing numbers of farm attacks and murders”.
Her rhetorical answer is “Ramaphosa will continue to pretend they are not happening as he did in an infamous interview in 2018”.
Groenewald went further on the Presidential silence around rural safety, saying it created the impression the ruling party’s land expropriation programme appears to have “muzzled” him.
“It appears the President dare not ask that farmers be protected against crime because then he will also have to ask that farmers’ property must be protected. That contradicts the policy of land expropriation without compensation.
“That 31 farm attacks and four farm murders took place in just ten days is surely enough proof this is not ordinary crime, but is organised and requires urgent attention,” Groenewald said.
“South Africa currently finds itself in a most difficult economic situation with the agricultural sector having to contend with an ‘agriculture-unfriendly’ government and policy uncertainty.
“This threatens the strategic interest of agriculture and undermines confidence in the sector. Uncertainty and escalating rural crime are not conducive to an environment where agriculture can perform and contribute to economic development and growth.
“In these circumstances, it is difficult to calm emotions of farmers and farmworkers who insist on their right to safety. Agri SA cautions the farming community to act responsibly and to hold police accountable to perform their constitutional duty to protect all citizens,” Esterhuyse said.
He said there was no single solution to improving rural security but “a government not hostile to agriculture and demonstrating political will to take tough decisions to benefit agriculture, rural safety and food security” was a good starting point.